UPDATE: Internet Shut Off in Egypt, Astounding Live Coverage Still Available as Pro-Democracy Leader Put Under House Arrest
Last night, hours before the biggest protests Egypt has seen yet were expected to start, a slew of news outlets began reporting that Internet access and SMS messages had been blocked across the country. According to the reports, the outage goes beyond censorship of specific websites, like Twitter, to extend to the entireInternet. As The Arabist noted quite plainly, "Egypt has shut off the internet."
A clever Huffington Post reader confirmed the reports:
HuffPost reader Thomas Jaworowski, a tech enthusiast, emails in that he "decided to try a few tricks" to see if Egypt's Internet really was down or it was just server overload causing the problems. He traced IP addresses, particularly for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo which is hosted in Egypt, and found that the Web traffic is indeed being blocked at the country level, not just a simple censoring.
Meanwhile, Egypt's protests -- and police violence against the protesters -- continued to intensify today. Reports the AP:
Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters clashed Friday with police in Cairo, who fired rubber bullets into the crowds and used tear gas and water cannons to disperse them. It was a major escalation in what was already the biggest challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's 30 year-rule.
Police also used water cannons against Egypt's pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei and his supporters as they joined the latest wave of protests after noon prayers. Police also used batons to beat some of ElBaradei's supporters, who surrounded him to protect him....
Large groups of protesters, in the thousands, were gathered at at least six venues in Cairo, a city of about 18 million people. They are demanding Mubarak's ouster. There were smaller protests in Assiut south of Cairo and al-Arish in the Sinai peninsula.
The Obama administration has finally given a definitive statement about its feelings on the Murabak situation, with VP Joe Biden telling NewsHour that he would "not refer to [Murabak] as a dictator" and that he doesn't think the Egyptian leader should step down. However, he does think Murabak should "be more responsive to some of the needs of the people out there."
Despite the difficulties with the Internet and reports that Egyptian police are harassing journalists across the country, Al Jazeera is continuing to broadcast astounding live coverage of the protests (h/t Raw Story):
UPDATE: ABC reports that Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei "was placed under house arrest after police attacked him and his supporters with water cannons after Friday prayers. ElBaradei returned home to Egypt Thursday after a month-long absence to join the protests."
And Al Jazeera is reporting that U.S. Senator John Kerry and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have both condemned the police and government violence against protesters, with Kerry saying in a statement that he calls on "Egyptian government and security forces to exercise restraint in dealing with protesters and to respect the human rights of its citizens to seek greater participation in their own government."
UPDATE 2: Al Jazeera says protesters are defying the government-imposed curfew and continuing to take to the streets, despite the heavy army personnel presence.
Meanwhile, the Internet has now been disabled for a full 24 hours, as shown on this startling graphic from Arbor Networks: